A classic, native evergreen hedging plant, Ilex makes a wonderful garden feature that also doubles as an intruder deterrent, due to its prickly leaves. 'Aquifolium' loosely translates to 'needle leaf' in reference to the sharp, glossy leaves that make Holly bushes so distinguishable. All varieties of Ilex achieve about 10 - 20cm a year; Holly growth rate is fairly slow, but what these hedging plants lack in speed, they definitely make up for with seasonal interest and colourful foliage.
As a native hedging plant, Ilex is great for providing food and shelter to British wildlife. Birds such as blackbirds, chaffinches, robins and waxwings feast on the bright red berries and all varieties of Holly plants provide a good source of nectar and pollen for bees. Holly hedging is the most beneficial to wildlife when left to grow naturally, as the bushy habit provides a safe, protected habitat.
An important point to note is that female Holly plants are required for the production of berries. When purchasing the native variety of Ilex, a mixture of male and female plants will be provided, whereas if you choose one of Best4hedging's named varieties, (Silver for example) these Holly hedges are generally female. Confused? Fear not, with so many native holly plants in hedge rows across the UK any Holly hedging you choose to plant is highly likely to berry, regardless of its sex.
Holly plants have long been a symbol of Christmas and are a frequent reference in folklore, carrying with them many interpretations of luck. In England, if a Holly shrub was planted near the home it was thought that it would repel poison and protect the residents from witchcraft and lightning. In Ireland, a Holly hedge was planted away from the home so as not to disturb the fairies that supposedly live in Holly hedging.
Ilex is still commonly used in Christmas decorations, such as wreathes and in the past, some families would even have a Holly bush in their home instead of a Fir tree - imagine the injuries you would sustain trying to hang decorations on a Holly tree!
Although the red berries of Holly hedging can cause nausea to humans, the juice of fresh leaves have been used for the treatment of jaundice and high fevers.
It is believed that if a Holly hedge produces a large crop of berries, this indicates a hard winter is on the way.
Holly is also used in two of our tapestry mixed hedging packs - these are a fantastic way of incorporating a range of different plants into your garden hedge. Even Prince Charles has a tapestry hedge!